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Thread: [Featured Thread] What constitutes a "prime" game-used

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    [Featured Thread] What constitutes a "prime" game-used

    It began back in 1996-1997 when one of the companies hit on an idea that would take the hobby to a whole new level. There was a huge market for game-used items, and a market for cards. Maybe by adding small pieces of game-used items into cards, they could expand the popularity of cards and offer some cards that were exceedingly valuable. One thing is for certain, the idea took off.

    In 1997 Upper Deck was the first company to put any game-used material into a baseball card making GU cards of Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, and the legendary Rey Ordonez. Their popularity lead to an explosion in game-used cards, and it has been an interesting development to follow.

    In 1999 Upper Deck pushed the hobby forward with one of the classic themed sets: 1999 Upper Deck a Piece of History 500 Home Run Club Bat cards. These cards included the first game-used cards for many Hall of Famers and included all players who were members of the 500 home run club at the time. The cards were all /350 except for Ruth who was /50 (there had been an earlier version of Ruth that was /350 that had a different image, and did not have the words "500 Home Run." Upper Deck and Fleer followed up the success of the 500 Home Run club by releasing Game-Used sets revolving around the 3000 hit club.

    One thing that was interesting about this time was that the concept of "patch" cards or "prime" cards had not really come into their own. At that point the companies were non-discriminate about the specific piece they were putting into cards, not realizing that collectors would find the certain pieces of game-used items cards much more appealing. This held true for bat pieces as well and Fleer even included a bat barrel in their 2000 Fleer set as seen below.

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    In 2001 for the first time (I believe) the companies started to distinguish between patches and other jerseys. One classic example is the 2001 Leaf Certified Fabric of the Game set. The set had many jersey cards, but the "Century" edition specifically had patch cards.

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    One thing that was still not clearly defined was what exactly constituted a patch, or a "prime" piece. Some examples of cards were ultimately considered prime, some not, and some the companies had not even really considered before a few more years.

    In the "not prime" category, the cards that lead off are the ones that have stitches. One might think that stitching is unique enough to warrant being considered a patch, and in fact, stitching cards made it into the 2001 Leaf Certified Century set (indicating that the company felt that way) but over time the market has not paid almost any premium for these.

    An example:

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    But there were many more options that had yet to have been decided. Button and air holes were to be found in packs, though it does not seem like the companies ever assumed that they were worthy of a prime designation (either labeled as such on the cards, or like the 2001 Leaf Certified Century set, separated out and included in a specific set which would indicate that there was an expectation that collectors would distinguish between it and other cards.) Today there are some collectors who search out these pieces (button holes more often than air holes) but for most collectors it is interesting, but not particularly desirable.

    There were a whole number of items that were different enough that it seems the companies did not even consider them collectors items at all. These include buttons, laundry tags, and some labels. For roughly the first decade of game-used items, none of these (to the best my knowledge) found their way into packs. Considering how many game-used items were cut up in that time period, it is hard not to wonder whether the companies considered that unusable "junk" and simply disposed of them. (If someone worked at one of the companies then and can comment, it would be great to know whether this might be the case.) Over the last few years the companies have figured out that pretty much any component of a jersey, pair of pants etc, is worth something and they have found ways to highlight these interesting pieces.

    The companies have also found ways to improve their utilization finding ways to improve on concepts which had been used. AN example is the stitched name in the lining of the pants. While it was featured as far back as 2005 (and maybe even earlier), Panini has recently included the full name, making a really unique game-used item that is as specific to the player as a bat barrel. (This is not to even consider that a Carlos Gomez patch would ever be more appealing than a Babe Ruth patch, but for a second imagine a full Ruth name tag patch...)

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    To this day, there are still some items that are a bit less clear. This card was actually labeled by Donruss as "prime", but there are probably people on both sides (as the owner of the card I hope people do view it as prime but I would not consider it as nice as a piece of blue patch or even the letter shown above. Thankfully, a home/away jersey 1/1 is not too shabby even if the prime piece is not the best.)

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    There are also cards such as the Walter Johnson GU Ball card, which people have been split on (although given that it's his only GU cards, many people's attitude is that they will take what they can get...)

    Ultimately collecting is in the eye's of the beholder and I'm sure the card companies were thrilled to discover that there is a different collectors for so many different parts of the jerseys. We are still somewhat early in the era of game-used cards (considering that cards have been around for well over 100 years). For collectors though, the introduction of game-used material has added a fascinating dimension to the hobby, and one that continues to evolve.
    Last edited by Topnotchsy; 10-25-2015 at 11:47 PM.

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    Nice! I tend to look at "prime" as being patch, name stitching, button hole or air hole.
    I can't wait to see some other inclusions in this thread.

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    Modern "prime" - any piece of a patch, and that includes 1-color patches.

    Vintage "prime" - depends on the player, uniform, etc. I consider any piece of patch, piping, stitching, or button hole "prime." For a card like the Absolute TOTT Ruth, I don't consider pinstripes as "prime." They should (and do) carry a premium, but they're still base uniform swatches

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    Don't wanna jump the gun here before you have a chance to finish but I remember the first laundry tag I pulled of Pedro. I thought it looked kinda lame and I actually thought it hurt the value that I got such an unsightly piece of the jersey. I probably sold it way too low before realizing it was actually more appealing


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    Slightly off topic, but that George Brett is slick.

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    I'd say any piece of gu that is from a part of...well any patch on the jersey really. So anything from the name plate, the logos, etc. for pants, the laundry tag is pretty much it(and tags work for jersey's and hats too).
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    What products have called the memorabilia on the card "prime"? The only I can think of is 2005 Prime Patches
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    Quote Originally Posted by IndyManning18 View Post
    Slightly off topic, but that George Brett is slick.
    QFT, WOWWWW

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    Quote Originally Posted by r2d2 View Post
    What products have called the memorabilia on the card "prime"? The only I can think of is 2005 Prime Patches
    Absolute does. I believe certain UD cards. Actually just about every company has at some point.
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    I have Patch and prime as 2 different pieces.

    Prime for me is Button holes, air holes, letter stitching, auto or partial auto or scribble on the jersey, 1 color patches (meaning patches that take up the whole window) and any premium piece from pants.
    I do not consider pinstripe or stitching holes as prime what so ever. To me they are just cooler looking jersey or pants cards.

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    Right away I thought about Playoff Absolute TOTT. Those cards with multiple game used items and some were labeled Jersey-Prime which would be confusing because the next box over would say Jersey and for the most part it was the same type of fabric but just a different color.

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    I wrapped up the article (although I may go back and edit/add at some point since I had a bit more, but just got tired/lazy). I hope you enjoy.

    I think at the end of the day everyone will define things based on their own likes, and that's cool. What I was hoping to do was walk through the development of the game-used industry and consider how it developed and some of the steps along the way. Some are pretty cool (the Brett Barrel is one of the coolest cards I ever owned, though I sold it a while back) while others (like the idea that IMO they probably threw out the "scraps" like buttons from early jerseys that they cut up) are a bit rough to consider.

    Hope you enjoy!

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    I know for the Yankees, they consider the black and white piping around the neck hole and sleeve holes as prime, like this Mattingly
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    Prime to me means any part/piece of the jersey/pants/hat, that isn't a patch piece(logo,name,numbers) and isn't a normal 1 color part/piece of the pants/jersey/hat. Prime to me might have a signature, or part of a signature on it, be the laundry tag of pants/jerseys/hats (as all absolute memorabilia cards list laundry tags as prime), or be a piece like the Mattingly card. The mulit-color piping parts of jersey/pants/hats. I dont consider pinstripes, stripes, stitching, vent/button holes as prime, just added coolness to the piece

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    Senior Member mlbsalltimegreats's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Topnotchsy View Post
    I wrapped up the article (although I may go back and edit/add at some point since I had a bit more, but just got tired/lazy). I hope you enjoy.

    I think at the end of the day everyone will define things based on their own likes, and that's cool. What I was hoping to do was walk through the development of the game-used industry and consider how it developed and some of the steps along the way. Some are pretty cool (the Brett Barrel is one of the coolest cards I ever owned, though I sold it a while back) while others (like the idea that IMO they probably threw out the "scraps" like buttons from early jerseys that they cut up) are a bit rough to consider.

    Hope you enjoy!
    For buttons, I don't think they threw them out or considered them scraps more so that they had no idea how to place these thicker pieces in cards or package them. Remember early on packs were flat and they probably dint know how to hide them without damaging card or making packs super obvious. There was a time when you could tell if the pack had a barrel or some type of premium piece, now its a little harder to tell. Really thick cards dint really come out until mid 2000s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mlbsalltimegreats View Post
    For buttons, I don't think they threw them out or considered them scraps more so that they had no idea how to place these thicker pieces in cards or package them. Remember early on packs were flat and they probably dint know how to hide them without damaging card or making packs super obvious. There was a time when you could tell if the pack had a barrel or some type of premium piece, now its a little harder to tell. Really thick cards dint really come out until mid 2000s.
    Could definitely be, though if they held on to them I think the question would be why we haven't seen tons of buttons over the last few years as the companies should have a stock from the GU items they cut u over the years. (Even if they removed them from the jersey piece, they could be glued into a card pretty easily...)

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